Grappling the Rapplers?

‘The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services?’


IT’S FRIDAY and the company where I was working was on dress down. I chose to wear a pair of jeans and a black shirt. But as I was riding the northbound MRT-3 train, I looked around and wondered if there were other passengers wearing the same colour of shirt as I do. There were few of them and I sensed that they were also curious. Yes, curious if my wearing black is a form of support on the Black Friday Protest for Freedom action organised by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). The NUJP earlier severely criticized the Securites and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision revoking the registration of the leading news website Rappler. 

In their website, it’s indicated that Rappler comes from the root words “rap” (to discuss) and “ripple” (to make waves). Without a doubt, they are making waves these days not of stories of various personalities they cover, or of news reports about other entities, but the legality of their existence. When the SEC and Rappler issue broke, I sulked. I couldn’t believe that such incident can happen to one of the media organisations I look up to. Some of the most respected, prominent, and award-winning journalists and writers I know work for or are connected with Rappler. Maria Ressa. Marites Vitug. Chay Hofileña. Glenda Gloria. Patricia Evangelista. 

The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services? 

While the SEC decision was not final and executory, with the political climate the Philippines has, the possibility for the case to reach the halls of the Supreme Court is not startling. But online forums and the comments section have been filled with opinions. For them, Rappler has reached its final destination.

“Maria Ressa is wearing a victim’s cloak” a netizen commented. “In need of attention just like the previous president.” Some of my Facebook friends also despised Rappler for their alleged violation. Suddenly, constitutional experts rose on the occasion. They are doomed, one added. But did they first read the 21-page decision of the SEC before expressing their thoughts online? Did they examine the facts before judging those who side and believe in Rappler as ‘Yellowtards’ and fools?

I’ve seen it before and I am seeing it again. In our attempt to simplify things, we resort to one-liners, labels, and generalizations. These do not accomplish anything but create more divisions. 

In his book Blink, renowned journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

When Rappler published my opinion piece about the subpar MRT-3 train services, some of the commenters were quick to assume that I was a paid writer whose objective was to discredit the actions of the government in addressing the transport system issue. They even judged me as just another Rappler writer who doesn’t see the good in the current administration, its achievements. Without conducting a simple Google search or patiently reading the whole piece, they came up with their own conclusions. These are classic examples of false and uninformed accusations online. 

Because the truth is I care about my country. We write because we believe that something can be done, that there’s still hope, and that those in power didn’t fully shut their ears to listen to another point of view, to fresh perspectives. For a democracy to work, there should be checks and balances and the media play a valuable role in guarding and being the platform for people to practice their right to speech and expression. Yes, they put their lives, their principles on the line. 

With everything’s that’s going on, it’s easy to be swayed by the popular, the majority opinion. Some choose to stay silent because of fear and inconvenience. If indeed Rappler intentionally committed grave contraventions against the provisions of the constitution and that they should be held liable, let the courts decide about it. If they published malicious articles beyond the ethical standards of journalism, which are meant to degrade or disparage a public official and put him or her in bad light, file cases. Let’s recognise the proper forums backed by existing laws and give emphasis on due process. 

Opposing opinions can coexist without us losing our humanity in the process with respect. It can be done without grappling the pens and the mouths of our fellowmen who cry for truth, freedom and justice whether we agree with them or not. Because in the end, while we are busy figuring out how others are different from us with all their ideals and perspectives, we forget to listen, to read, to research, and ultimately, to convince ourselves that in times like this, it’s best to pause and pray for our country with a black shirt on or whatever colour we believe we represent. 

World leader in porn watching

‘We read news reports like this without blinking an eye. But do we ever ask ourselves where our values have gone?’

WE WERE high school freshmen then. The day before summer vacation was to start, my seat mate Sam handed me a small, thin package. “It’s for you, Ben,” he said. “Open it when you get home.” Wrapped in intermediate paper and placed inside a red plastic bag, it was evidently a video compact disc.

An animated film, like “Toy Story,” maybe? I asked him.

“Just watch it when nobody’s around,” he said. But why? I wondered to myself.

Nonplussed, I ran to the lone room on the second floor as soon as I got home. I took the VCD out of my bag, removed its wrap, and noted that it had some scratches and had no title or picture on either side. I inserted it in the player and saw that it was working. I was all by myself and was thrilled at the prospect of seeing Buzz Lightyear in action.

But it was not “Toy Story” or any other film of the same genre. I saw foreigners. Man. Woman. Naked. Loud sound. Moaning. Sex act…

I turned off the VCD player as quickly as I could, guilt overwhelming my consciousness. What did I just see? I asked myself. I couldn’t move for a few minutes. While blankly staring at the ceiling, I placed my right hand over my heart. It was beating rapidly, as if I were in a marathon. I thought of my parents, my brothers, my sisters.

In our household, as in most other Filipino households, talk about sex, sexuality, and pornography is taboo. It seems to be embedded in our culture to not mention or discuss these topics in the open. They are deemed dirty and dark, unfit for discussion. But isn’t there a disconnect between what we think we believe and what we do?

Go to any commercial area these days in Metro Manila and you will see a different kind of commodity being sold. Yes, you will see fish, pork, or beef presented in a fashion to attract customers in the wet market, but you will also see pornographic DVDs arranged by category on wooden tables stationed in front of fast-food outlets and restaurants: Asian, American, Latin.

In some instances, the trade in such DVDs occurs just a few meters away from a police station. It’s as if this trade is an accepted part of reality, and police authorities have no business hindering this dark business from prospering. But more than what we witness in the real world, there are porn sites galore in the internet, not to mention the occasional pair of naked breasts popping up out of nowhere.

According to Pornhub’s 2017 data, the Philippines leads the world in time spent watching porn, at 13 minutes and 28 seconds on the average. And yes, the Philippines has been acing this category for a number of years now.

We read news reports like this without blinking an eye. But do we ever ask ourselves where our values have gone?

David Segal wrote in “Does Porn Hurt Children?” (New York Times, March 2014): “‘One of our recommendations is that children should be taught about relationships and sex at a young age,’ Professor Horvath continued. ‘If we start teaching kids about equality and respect when they are 5 or 6 years old, by the time they encounter porn in their teens, they will be able to pick out and see the lack of respect and emotion that porn gives us. They’ll be better equipped to deal with what they are being presented with.’”

This recommendation is of a piece with what’s written in Proverbs 22:6 (King James version): “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

About a year ago, then Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial announced a plan of action to block pornographic websites in the country as part of efforts to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS, especially among the youth. This move could have reduced the risk to Filipino adults and children posed by unsafe sexual activities resulting from exposure to porn. But it did not push through.

Humans are not designed to lust after porn models or actors online or in porn DVDs; we are designed to fall in love with one individual with respect and sincerity under God’s guidance. Our body structure and emotions support this. While scientific evidence on the gruesome effects of porn continue to be studied, the safest step to take by young people is to shy away from it to prevent possible addiction to it. If Filipinos take pride in calling ourselves a Christian nation, let’s live by its standards. We should not patronize porn and treat it as part of our lives. Let us make a stand.

Up to this day, I wonder what my seat mate Sam’s intentions were that afternoon when he handed me the porn VCD. If I would be given a chance to talk to him again, I’d tell him how I momentarily froze in shock at what I was seeing. I’d ask him why. But with all the questions, one thing is certain: It’s not supposed to be like this. Because we are not born this way.

(This piece has been published in Young Blood, Opinion, Philippine Daily Inquirer on the 14th of January, 2018.)

Finding Ica and the search for online delicadeza

‘Can I tell these to him or her in person?’

AS THE missing posters of 17-year-old Ica Policarpio with the hashtag #FindIca went viral on social media sites, speculations ruled the public’s consciousness. Sympathy poured for Ica’s family, which has been magnified and deemed serious with the participation of some celebrities in search of a teenager they do not know personally. But with it were excruciating judgments.

She surely eloped with her boyfriend, one declared. Worse, another one added, she’s been kidnapped, raped, killed and then dumped in a creek or river somewhere just like the others. 

When I read these pronouncements, I sulked. I linked my hands at the back of my head with disgust and my appetite to finish reading Miguel Syjuco’s book titled Ilustrado during the holidays has been halted. I went into a familiar state nowadays of those who consume social media for entertainment, news, and expression. It’s the state of puzzlement with the current condition of human behavior, motivations, and values tainted by indifference, insensitivity and lack of natural affection that we witness online. And then, questions arose out of nowhere. 

How did some of us become this harsh online? When did some of us start fashioning careless, lethargic comments to our fellowmen without having full knowledge of the context, the background, and the facts of the trending topic? Why didn’t we consider the subject herself, of her possible reaction after the smoke vanished and the stream of emotions died down? Why did we forget the cinch fact that Ica is a minor and must be given special care and treatment? 

Days after interviews with some of the members of her family have been conducted and the online world still starving with answers, a netizen’s tweet helped find her. 

It’s the 23rd of December. A selfie captured her sitting behind a group of girls while reading a book just outside a coffee shop in a mall. She was all by herself and was later found crying at a carinderia in San Pablo City. Evidently, she’s lost and was going through a “deep emotional distress”.

It was a sweet, mirthful news which ended her more than 60-kilometer journey from Muntinlupa City to Laguna province. Her father immediately asked for understanding and appealed for privacy. But it wasn’t a fairy tale that saw its conclusion with a simple “happily ever after.” No, not when your sympathizers at one point have been fed with fake news and lies in the past. 

Reactions surfaced on my feed. Triumph. Empathy. Tears. Smileys. Doubt. Demands. Closure. 

From a beloved figure, some people described Ica as “papansin,” “bratinella,” and “spoiled brat” among others. Her name has been ridiculed and dragged to the pit of shame online. We deserve an explanation, one of my Facebook friends posted with a hint that Ica probably had taken on a dare called ‘Game of 72’ which involves challenging a friend to go missing for 72 hours without providing any information or update to the family and make certain they panic. 

Have you ever wondered about it? 

As we welcomed the new year based on Gregorian calendar, an opinion poll conducted by Gallup International ranked the Philippines as the third-happiest country in the world. This reaffirmed our optimism and belief that there are still millions of reasons to cheer for. But this is being overshadowed by those moments when we find ourselves actively bullying and ridiculing an individual online. 

Yes, there are hardships all around us. Yes, we face multisectoral challenges that can never be solved by the strongman in Malacañang alone. Yes, our patience is on the brink of exploding brought by the inefficient services we experience everyday of our lives. Yes, we’re tired. But these do not give us the license to be rude to a stranger online. These do not warrant us to be unfair, to be blinded to reason and justice. 

The comments section and our “What’s on your mind” space became our modern day diaries: personal yet at times destructive. We saw avenues for our frustrations, rants, and uninformed opinions to exist. We freely share, post, and treat them as mere constellation of “words” which do not have the capacity to kill someone. But no, we unknowingly commit an unspeakable heinous crime every time we forget that behind each name or photo or poster is a person who just like us has dreams, aspirations, and identity; that similarly, that person has vulnerabilities and is facing battles deep within him or her. 

In every interaction, online or not, politeness, respect and delicadeza are valuable. Before we post or comment, we should first pause and ask ourselves: Can I tell these to him or her in person?

Ica made us realize how limited our grasp is of the reality, of our understanding of the mental health in our country, and how some of us lose ourselves believing that we are entitled for a clamant, elaborate, and intricate explanation on what really had transpired on a trending topic even if the party we cared for asked for space and privacy.

In the future, God willing, when she’s ready and the pain no longer rests in her heart and soul, Ica may go back and choose to have a glimpse at the news reports, the articles, and the posts with hashtag #FindIca on her disappearance. And on that day, at that moment, I would like to tell her that even if I’m a stranger to her, I would like her to remember that she’s not alone. ‘Every teenager is both a hero and a failure,’ Syjuco said in Ilustrado. ‘When we become adults we have to choose where in the middle we’ll be.’ No matter what, she should never give up. Instead, she should be a hero to herself and those around her. I’m glad she found her way back home. Every time, she should remind herself that with God’s help and mercy, she can. 


Europa Pebrero 1889


Nang aking sulatin ang Noli Me Tangere, tinanong kong laon, kung ang pusuang dalaga’y karaniwan kaya diyan sa ating bayan. Matay ko mang sinaliksik yaring alaala; matay ko mang pinagisa-ngisa ang lahat ñg dalagang makilala sapul sa pagkabatá, ay mañgisa-ñgisa lamang ang sumaguing larawang aking ninanasá. Tunay at labis ang matamis na loob, ang magandang ugalí, ang binibining anyó, ang mahinhing asal; ñgunit ang lahat na ito’y laguing nahahaluan ñg lubos na pagsuyó at pagsunod sa balang sabi ó hiling nang nagñgañgalang amang kalulua (tila baga ang kaluluwa’y may iba pang ama sa Dios,) dala ñg malabis na kabaitan, kababaan ñg loob ó kamangmañgan kayá: anaki’y mga lantang halaman, sibul at laki sa dilim; mamulaklak ma’y walang bañgo, magbuñga ma’y walang katas.

Ñguní at ñgayong dumating ang balitang sa inyong bayang Malolos, napagkilala kong ako’y namalí, at ang tuá ko’y labis. Dí sukat ako sisihin, dí ko kilala ang Malolos, ni ang mga dalaga,liban sa isang Emilia, at ito pa’y sa ñgalan lamang.

Ñgayong tumugon kayo sa uhaw naming sigaw ñg ikagagaling ñg bayan; ñgayong nagpakita kayo ñg mabuting halimbawa sa kapuá dalagang nagnanasang paris ninyong mamulat ang mata at mahañgo sa pagkalugamí, sumisigla ang aming pag-asa, inaaglahì ang sakuná, sa pagka at kayo’y katulong na namin, panatag ang loob sapagtatagumpay. Ang babaing tagalog ay di na payukó at luhod, buhay na ang pagasa sa panahong sasapit; walá na ang inang katulong sa pagbulag sa anak na palalakhin sa alipustá at pagayop. Di na unang karunuñgan ang patuñgó ñg ulo sa balang maling utos, dakilang kabaitan ang ñgisi sa pagmura, masayang pangaliw ang mababang luhá. Napagkilala din ninyo na ang utos ñg Dios ay iba sa utos ñg Parí, na ang kabanalan ay hindi ang matagal na luhod, mahabang dasal, malalaking kuentas, libaguing kalmin, kundí ang mabuting asal, malinis na loob at matuid na isip. Napagkilala din ninyo na dí kabaitan ang pagkamasunurin sa ano mang pita at hiling ñg nagdidiosdiosan, kundi ang pagsunod sa katampata’t matuid, sapagka’t ang bulag na pagsunod ay siyang pinagmumulan ñg likong paguutos, at sa bagay na ito’y pawang nagkakasala. Dí masasabi ñg punó ó parí na sila lamang ang mananagot ñg maling utos; binigyan ñg Dios ang bawat isa ñg sariling isip at sariling loob, upang ding mapagkilala ang likó at tapat; paraparang inianak ñg walang tanikalá, kundí malayá, at sa loob at kalulua’y walang makasusupil, bakit kayá ipaaalipin mo sa iba ang marañgal at malayang pagiisip? Duag at malí ang akalá na ang bulag na pagsunod ay kabanalan, at kapalaluan ang mag isipisip at magnilay nilay. Ang kamangmañgan’y, kamangmañgan at dí kabaita’t puri. Di hiling ñg Dios, punó ñg kataruñgan, na ang taong larawan niya’y paulol at pabulag; ang hiyas ñgisip, na ipinalamuti sa atin, paningniñgin at gamitin. Halimbawá baga ang isang amang nagbigay sa bawat isang anak ñg kanikanyang tanglaw sa paglakad sa dilim.

Paniñgasin nila ang liwanag ñg ilaw, alagaang kusá at huag patain, dala ñg pag-asa sa ilaw ñg iba, kundí magtulongtulong magsangunian, sa paghanap ñg daan. Ulol na di hamak at masisisi ang madapá sa pagsunod sa ilaw ñg iba, at masasabi ng ama: “bakit kita binigyan ng sarili mong ilaw?” Ñguni’t dí lubhang masisisi ang madapá sa sariling tanglaw, sapagka’t marahil ang ilaw ay madilim, ó kayá ay totoong masamá ang daan.

Ugaling panagot ng mga may ibig mang ulol, ay: palaló ang katiwalá sa sariling bait; sa akalá ko ay lalong palaló ang ibig sumupil ng bait ng iba, at papanatilihin sa lahat ang sarili. Lalong palaló ang nagdidiosdiosan, ang ibig tumarok ng balang kilos ng isip ng DIOS; at sakdal kapalaluan ó kataksilan ang walang gawá kundí pagbintañgan ang Dios ng balang bukang bibig at ilipat sa kanya ang balá niyang nasá, at ang sariling kaaway ay gawing kaaway ng Dios. Dí dapat naman tayong umasa sa sarili lamang; kundí magtanong,makinig sa iba, at saka gawain ang inaakalang lalong matuid; ang habito ó sutana’y walang naidaragdag sa dunong ng tao; magsapinsapin man ang habito ng huli sa bundok, ay bulubundukin din at walang nadadayá kungdí ang mangmang at mahinang loob. Nang ito’y lalong maranasan, ay bumili kayo ng isang habito sa S. Francisco at isoot ninyo sa isang kalabao. Kapalaran na kung pagka pag habito ay hindí magtamad. Lisanin ko ito at dalhin ang salitá sa iba.

Sa kadalagahang punlaan ng bulaklak na mamumuñga’y dapat ang babai’y magtipon ng yamang maipamamana sa lalaking anak. Ano kaya ang magiging supling ng babaing walang kabanalan kundí ang magbubulong ng dasal, walang karunuñgan kungdí awit, novena at milagrong pangulol sa tao, walang libañgang iba sa panguingue ó magkumpisal kayá ng malimit ng muli’t muling kasalanan? Ano ang magiging anak kundí sakristan, bataan ng cura ó magsasabong? Gawá ng mga ina ang kalugamian ngayon ng ating mga kababayan, sa lubos na paniniwalá ng kanilang masintahing pusó, at sa malaking pagkaibig na ang kanilang mga anak ay mapakagaling. Ang kagulañga’y buñga ñg pagkabatá at ang pagkabata’y nasa kanduñgan ñg ina. Ang inang walang maituturó kundí ang lumuhod humalik ñg kamay, huwag magantay ng anak ng iba sa duñgó ó alipustang alipin. Kahoy na laki sa burak, daluro ó pagatpat ó pangatong lamang; at kung sakalí’t may batang may pusong pangahas, ang kapangahasa’y tagó at gagamitin sa samá, paris ng silaw na kabag na dí makapakita kundí pag tatakip silim. Karaniwang panagot ang una’y kabanalan at pagsinta sa Dios. Ñguní at ano ang kabanalang itinuró sa atin? Magdasal at lumuhod ng matagal, humalik ng kamay sa parí, ubusin ang salapí sa simbahan at paniwalaan ang balang masumpuñgang sabihin sa atin? Tabil ng bibig, lipak ng tuhod, kiskis ng ilong….. bagay sa limos sa simbahan, sangkalan ang Dios, may bagay baga sa mundong ito na dí arí at likhá ng Maykapal? Ano ang inyong sasabihin sa isang alilang maglimos sa kayang panginoon ng isang basahang hiram sa nasabing mayaman? Sino ang taong dí palaló at ulol, na mag lilimos sa Dios at magaakalang ang salantá niyang kaya ay makabibihis sa lumikhá ng lahat ñg bagay? Pagpalain ang maglimos sa kapus, tumulong sa mayhirap, magpakain sa gutom; ñguní at mapulaan at sumpain, ang biñgi sa taghoy ng mahirap, at walang binubusog kundí ang sandat, at inubos ang salapí sa mga frontal na pilak, limos sa simbahan ó sa frayleng lumalañgoy sa yaman, sa misa de gracia ng may tugtugan at paputok, samantalang ang salaping ito’y pinipigá sa buto ñg mahirap at iniaalay sa pañginoon ñg maibili ng tanikalang pangapus, maibayad ng verdugong panghampas. Ó kabulagan at kahiklian ng isip!

Ang unang kabanalan ay ang pagsunod sa matuid, anoman ang mangyari. “Gawá at hindí salitá ang hiling ko sa inyo” ani Cristo; “hindí anak ni ama ang nagsasabing ulit-ulit ama ko, ama ko, kundí ang nabubuhay alinsunod sa hiling ñg aking ama.” Ang kabanalan ay walá sa pulpol na ilong, at ang kahalili ni Cristo’y di kilala sa halikang kamay. Si Cristo’y dí humalik sa mga Fariseo, hindi nagpahalik kailan pa man; hindí niya pinatabá ang may yaman at palalong escribas; walá siyang binangit na kalmen, walang pinapagcuintas, hiningan ng pamisa, at di nagbayad sa kanyang panalangin. Di napaupa si San Juan sa Ilog ng Jordan, gayon din si Cristo sa kanyang pangangaral. Bakit ngayo’y ang mga pari’y walang bigong kilos na di may hinihinging upa? At gutom pa halos nagbibili ng mga kalmen, cuentas, correa at ibapa, pang dayá ng salapi, pampasamá sa kalulua; sa pagkat kalminin mo man ang lahat ng basahan sa lupá, cuintasin mo man ang lahat ng kahoy sa bundok ibilibid mo man sa iyong bayawang ang lahat ng balat ng hayop, at ang lahat na ito’y pagkapaguran mang pagkuruskurusan at pagbulongbulongan ng lahat ng pari sa sangdaigdigan, at iwisik man ang lahat ng tubig sa dagat, ay di mapalilinis ang maruming loob, di mapatatawad ang walang pagsisisi. Gayon din sa kasakiman sa salapi’y maraming ipinagbawal, na matutubos kapag ikaw ay nagbayad, alin na ngá sa huag sa pagkain ng karne, pagaasawa sa pinsan, kumpari, at iba pa, na ipinahihintulot kapag ikaw ay sumuhol. Bakit, nabibili baga ang Dios at nasisilaw sa salaping paris ng mga pari? Ang magnanakaw na tumubos ng bula de composicion, ay makaaasa sa tahimik, na siya’y pinatawad; samakatuid ay ibig ng Dios na makikain ng nakaw? Totoo bagang hirap na ang Maykapal, na nakikigaya sa mga guarda, carabineros ó guardia civil? Kung ito ang Dios na sinasamba ñg Frayle, ay tumalikod ako sa ganyang Dios.

Maghunos dilí ngá tayo at imulat natin ang mata, lalong laló na kayong mga babai, sa pagka’t kayo ang nagbubukas ng loob ng tao. Isipin na ang mabuting ina ay iba, sa inang linalang ng fraile; dapat palakhin ang anak na malapit baga sa larawan ng tunay na Dios, Dios na dí nasusuhulan, Dios na dí masakim sa salapí, Dios na ama ng lahat, na walang kinikilingan, Dios na dí tumatabá sa dugó ng mahirap, na dí nagsasaya sa daing ng naruruhagi, at nangbubulag ng matalinong isip. Gisingin at ihandá ang loob ng anak sa balang mabuti at mahusay na akalá: pagmamahal sa puri, matapat at timtimang loob, maliwanag na pagiisip, malinis na asal, maginoong kilos, pagibig sa kapuá, at pagpipitagan sa Maykapal, ito ang ituró sa anak. At dahil ang buhay ay punó ng pighatí at sakuná, patibayin ang loob sa ano mang hirap, patapañgin ang pusó sa ano mang pañganib. Huag mag antay ang bayan ng puri at ginhawa, samantalang likó ang pagpapalaki sa batá, samantalang lugamí at mangmang ang babaing magpapalaki ñg anak. Walang maiinom sa labó at mapait na bukal; walang matamis na buñga sa punlang maasim. Malaki ngang hindí bahagyá ang katungkulang gaganapin ng babai sa pagkabihis ng hirap ng bayan, nguni at ang lahat na ito’y dí hihigit sa lakas at loob ng babaing Tagalog. Talastas ng lahat ang kapanyarihan at galing ng babayi sa Filipinas, kayá ñgá kanilang binulag, iginapus, at iniyukó ang loob, panatag sila’t habang ang iba’y alipin, ay ma-aalipin din naman ang lahat ng mga anak. Ito ang dahilan ng pagkalugamí ng Asia; ang babayi sa Asia’y mangmang at alipin. Makapangyarihan ang Europa at Amerika dahil duo’y ang mga babai’y malaya’t marunong, dilat ang isip at malakas ang loob.

Alam na kapus kayong totoo ñg mga librong sukat pagaralan; talastas na walang isinisilid araw araw sa inyong pagiisip kundí ang sadyang pang bulag sa inyong bukal na liwanag; tantó ang lahat na ito, kayá pinagsisikapan naming makaabot sa inyo ang ilaw na sumisilang sa kapuá ninyo babayi; dito sa Europa kung hindí kayamutan itong ilang sabi, at pagdamutang basahin, marahil ay makapal man ang ulap na nakakubkob sa ating bayan, ay pipilitin ding mataos ñg masantin na sikat ñg araw, at sisikat kahit banaag lamang… Dí kami manglulumo kapag kayo’y katulong namin; tutulong ang Dios sa pagpawí ñg ulap, palibhasa’y siya ang Dios ñg katotohanan; at isasaulí sa dati ang dilag ñg babaying Tagalog, na walang kakulañgan kundí isang malayang sariling isip, sapagka’t sa kabaita’y labis. Ito ang nasang lagì sa panimdim, na napapanaginip, ang karañgalan ñg babaying kabiak ñg pusó at karamay sa tuá ó hirap ñg buhay: kung dalaga, ay sintahin ñg binatá, di lamang dahilan sa ganda ó tamis ñg asal, kundí naman sa tibay ñg pusó, taas ñg loob, na makabuhay baga at makapanghinapang sa mahiná ó maruruwagang lalaki, ó makapukaw kayá ñg madidilag na pagiisip, pag isang dalaga bagang sukat ipagmalaki ñg bayan, pagpitaganan ñg iba, sapagka at karaniwang sabi sabi ñg mga kastilá at pari na nangagaling diyan ang karupukan at kamangmañgan ñg babaying tagalog, na tila baga ang mali ñg ilan ay malí na nang lahat, at anaki’y sa ibang lupá ay walá, ñg babaing marupok ang loob, at kung sabagay maraming maisusurot sa mata ñg ibang babai ang babaying tagalog…. Gayon ma’y dala marahil ñg kagaanan ñg labí ó galaw ñg dilá, ang mga kastilá, at parí pagbalik sa Espanya’y walang unang ipinamamalabad, ipinalilimbag at ipinagsisigawan halos, sabay ang halakhak, alipustá at tawa, kundí ang babaing si gayon, ay gayon sa convento, gayon sa kastilang pinatuloy, sa iba’t iba pang nakapagñgañgalit; sa tuing maiisip, na ang karamihan ng malí ay gawá ñg kamusmusan, labis na kabaitan, kababaan ñg loob ó kabulagan kayang kalalañgan din nila…. May isang kastilang nagayo’y mataas na tao na, pinakai’t pinatuloy natin sa habang panahong siya’y lumiguyliguy sa Filipinas… pagdating sa Espanya, ipinalimbag agad, na siya raw ay nanuluyang minsan sa Kapangpañgan, kumai’t natulog, at ang maginoong babaying nagpatuloy ay gumayon at gumayon sa kanya: ito ang iginanti sa napakatamis na loob ng babayi… Gayon din ang unang pahili ng pari sa nadalaw na kastila, ay ang kanyang mga masusunuring dalagang tagahalik ng kamay, at iba pang kahalo ang ñgiti at makahulugang kindat… Sa librong ipinalimbag ni Dn. Sinibaldo de Mas, at sa, iba pang sinulat ng mga pari, ay nalathala ang mga kasalanang ikinumpisal ng babai na di ilinilihim ng mga pari sa mga dumadalaw na Kastila, at kung magkaminsan pa’y dinadagdagan ng mga kayabañgan at karumihang hindi mapaniniwalaan… Di ko maulit dito ang mga di ikinahiyang sinabi ng isang fraile kay Mas na di nito mapaniwalaan… Sa tuing maririnig ó mababasa ang mga bagay na ito’y itinatanong namin kung Santa Maria kaya ang lahat ng babaying kastila, at makasalanan na kaya baga ang lahat ng babaying tagalog; ñguni kong sakali’t magsumbatan at maglatlatan ng puri’y… Datapua’t lisanin ko ang bagay na ito, sapagka’t dí ako paring confesor, ó manunuluyang kastilá, na makapaninirá ñg puri ng iba. Itabi ko ito at ituloy sambitin ang katungkulan ñg babai.

Sa mga bayang gumagalang sa babaing para ñg Filipinas, dapat nilang kilanlin ang tunay na lagay upang ding maganapan ang sa kanila’y inia-asa. Ugaling dati’y kapag nanliligaw ang nagaaral na binata ay ipinañgañganyayang lahat, dunong, puri’t salapi, na tila baga ang dalaga’y walang maisasabog kundi ang kasamaan. Ang katapang-tapañga’y kapag napakasal ay nagiging duag, ang duag na datihan ay nagwawalanghiya,na tila walang ina-antay kundi ang magasawa para maipahayag ang sariling kaduagan. Ang anak ay walang pangtakip sa hina ñg loob kundi ang alaala sa ina, at dahilan dito, nalunok na apdo, nagtitiis ñg tampal, nasunod sa lalong hunghang na utos, at tumutulong sa kataksilan ñg iba sa pagka’t kung walang natakbo’y walang manghahagad; kung walang isdang munti’y walang isdang malaki. Bakit kaya baga di humiling ang dalaga sa iibigín, ñg isang marañgal at mapuring ñgalan, isang pusong lalaking makapag- ampon sa kahinaan ng babai, isang marangal na loob na di papayag magka anak ng alipin? Pukawin sa loob ang sigla at sipag, maginoong asal, mahal na pakiramdam, at huwag isuko ang pagkadalaga sa isang mahina at kuyuming puso. Kung maging asawa na, ay dapat tumulong sa lahat ng hírap, palakasin ang loob ng lalaki, humati sa pañganib, aliwin ang dusa, at aglahiin ang hinagpis, at alalahaning lagi na walang hirap na di mababata ñg bayaning puso, at walang papait pang pamana, sa pamanang kaalipustaan at kaalipinan. Mulatin ang mata ñg anak sa pagiiñgat at pagmamahal sa puri, pagibig sa kapua sa tinubuang bayan, at sa pagtupad ñg ukol. Ulituliting matamisin ang mapuring kamatayan saalipustang buhay. Ang mga babai sa Esparta’y (=Sparta) sukat kunang uliran at dito’y ilalagda ko ang aking halimbawa: Nang iniaabot ñg isang ina ang kalasag sa papasahukbong anak, ay ito lamang ang sinabi: “ibalik mo ó ibalik ka,” ito ñga umuwi kang manalo ó mamatay ka, sapagkat ugaling iwaksi ang kalasag ñg talong natakbo ó inuwi kaya ang bangkay sa ibabaw ñg kalasag. Nabalitaan ñg isang ina na namatay sa laban ang kanyang anak, at ang hukbo ay natalo. Hindi umiimik kundi nagpasalamat dahil ang kanyang anak ay maligtas sa pulá, ñguni at ang anak ay bumalik na buhay; nagluksa ang ina ñg siya’y makita. Sa isang sumasalubong na ina sa mga umuwing galing sa laban, ay ibinalita ñg isa na namatay daw sa pagbabaka ang tatlong anak niya,—”hindi iyan ang tanong ko ang sagot ñg ina, kundi nanalo ó natalo tayó?—Nanalo ang sagot ñg bayani. Kung ganoo’y magpasalamat tayo sa Dios!” ang wika at napa sa simbahan.

Minsa’y nagtagó sa simbahan ang isang napatalong harí nila, sa takot sa galit sa bayan; pinagkaisahang kuluñgin siya doon at patain ñg gutum. Ñg papaderan na ang pinto’y ang ina ang unang nag hakot ñg bato. Ang mga ugaling ito’y karaniwan sa kanila, kayá ñga’t iginalang ng buong Grecia (=Greece) ang babaing Esparta. Sa lahat ñg babai, ang pulá ñg isa ay kayo lamang na taga Esparta ang nakapangyayari sa lalaki. Mangyari pa, ang sagot ñg babai, ay kami lamang ang nagaanak ñg lalaki. Ang tao, ñg mga Esparta ay hindí inianak para mabuhay sa sarili, kungdi para sa kanyang bayan. Habang nanatili ang ganitong mga isipan at ganitong mga babai ay walang kaaway na nakatungtong ñg lupang Esparta, at walang babaing taga Esparta na nakatanaw ñg hukbo ng kaaway. Dí ko inaasahang paniwalaan ako alang-alang lamang sa aking sabi: maraming taong dí natingin sa katuiran at tunay, kundí sa habito, sa putí ñg buhok ó kakulangan kayá ng ngipin. Ñguní at kung ang tanda’y magalang sa pinagdaanang hirap, ang pinagdaan kong buhay hain sa ikagagaling ng bayan, ay makapagbibigay ñg tandá sa akin, kahit maiklí man. Malayó ako sa, pagpapasampalataya, pag didiosdiosan, paghalili kayá sa Dios, paghahangad na paniwalaa’t pakingang pikit-mata, yukó ang ulo at halukipkip ang kamay; ñguni’t ang hiling ko’y magisip, mag mulaymulay ang lahat, usigin at salain kung sakalí sa ngalan ng katuiran itong pinaninindigang mga sabi:

Ang una-una. “Ang ipinagiging taksil ñg ilan ay nasa kaduagan at kapabayaan ñg iba.”

Ang ikalawa. Ang iniaalipustá ng isa ay nasa kulang ñg pagmamahal sa sarili at nasa labis ñg pagkasilaw sa umaalipustá.

Ang ikatlo. Ang kamangmañga’y kaalipinan, sapagkat kung ano ang isip ay ganoon ang tao: taong walang sariling isip, ay taong walang pagkatao; ang bulag na taga sunod sa isip ng iba, ay parang hayop na susunod-sunod sa talí.

Ang ikaapat. Ang ibig magtagó ñg sarili, ay tumulong sa ibang magtagó ñg kanila, sapagkat kung pabayaan mo ang inyong kapuá ay pababayaan ka rin naman; ang isa isang tingting ay madaling baliin, ñguní at mahirap baliin ang isang bigkis na walis.

Ang ika-lima. Kung ang babaing tagalog ay dí magbabago, ay hindí dapat magpalaki ñg anak, kungdí gawing pasibulan lamang; dapat alisin sa kanya ang kapangyarihan sa bahay, sapagka’t kung dili’y ipag kakanulong walang malay, asawa, anak, bayan at lahat.

Ang ika-anim. Ang tao’y inianak na paris-paris hubad at walang talí. Dí nilalang ñg Dios upang maalipin, dí binigyan ñg isip para pabulag, at dí hiniyasan ñg katuiran at ñg maulol ñg iba. Hindí kapalaluan ang dí pagsamba sa kapuá tao, ang pagpapaliwanag ñg isip at paggamit ñg matuid sa anomang bagay. Ang palalo’y ang napasasamba, ang bumubulag sa iba, at ang ibig paniigin ang kanyang ibig sa matuid at katampatan.

Ang ika-pito. Liniñgin ninyong magaling kung ano ang religiong itinuturó sa atin. Tingnan ninyong mabuti kung iyan ang utos ng Dios ó ang pangaral ni Cristong panglunas sa hirap ñg mahirap, pangaliw sa dusa ñg nagdudusa. Alalahanin ninyo ang lahat ñg sa inyo’y itinuturó, ang pinapatuñguhan ñg lahat ng sermon, ang nasa ilalim ng lahat ng misa, novena, kuintas, kalmen, larawan, milagro, kandilá, corea at iba’t iba pang iginigiit, inihihiyaw at isinusurot araw-araw sa inyong loob, taiñga, at mata, at hanapin ninyo ang puno at dulo at saka iparis ninyo ang religiong sa malinis na religion ni Cristo, at tingnan kung hindí ang inyong pagkakristiano ay paris ng inaalagang gatasang hayop, ó paris ng pinatatabang baboy kayá, na dí pinatatabá alang alang sa pagmamahal sa kaniya, kundí maipagbili ng lalong mahal at ng lalong masalapian.

Magbulay-bulay tayo, malasin ang ating kalagayan, at tayo’y mag isip isip. Kung itong ilang buhaghag na sabi’y makatutulong sa ibinigay sa inyong bait, upang ding maituloy ang nasimulan ninyong paglakad.

“Tubó ko’y dakilá sa puhunang pagod” at mamatamisin ang ano mang mangyari, ugaling upa sa sino mang mañgahas sa ating bayan magsabi ng tunay. Matupad nawá ang inyong nasang matuto at harí na ñgang sa halaman ñg karunuñgan ay huwag makapitas ñg buñgang bubut, kundí ang kikitili’y piliin, pagisipin muná, lasapin bago lunukin, sapagka’t sa balat ñg lupá lahat ay haluan, at di bihirang magtanim ang kaaway ng damong pansirá, kasama sa binhí sa gitná ñg linang.

Ito ang matindin nasá ñg inyong kababayang si…


Europa, 1889.

Waiting for and praying to Santa

‘In a chaotic time rife with hypocrisy, deceit, and insincerity, there is no better currency to give to another soul, more importantly to the youth and our children, than the truth about spirituality and faith.’

WHEN I was little, there was one night my childhood friends and I have always waited for. Each year, on Christmas eve, we would hang a sock outside our windows before we go to sleep. I thought that if I’ll pray hard enough to Santa Claus, I would wake up on Christmas morning with my wishes and my dreams granted. And if I was good enough and if the hanging sock won’t be enough to contain all the candies and chocolates and toys that he’ll give out of his good heart, he would replace it with a magical bag with remarkable presents. It never happened. Worse, I thought that he was unfair.

After learning that one of my friends had received way better and more special gifts, such as Playstation and bicycle, than I did, I doubted his love and compassion. Shouldn’t he be considerate to everyone?

And then on the third year of patiently waiting to finally see him, to talk to him, and wondering why he made those decisions in the past, I discovered he doesn’t exist.

Covered in bedding, I stayed up until 3 AM. I stared outside the window in the lone room at the second floor of our house with my eyes partially open. It’s the 25th of December. And little by little my mother, who I thought was soundly sleeping next to me, moved closer to the window and slowly put something in the sock. In a cold Christmas morning, I have met my Santa. No, we did not talk and she did not notice me looking at her. I went to sleep and she embraced me.

This truth came to me as a surprise. But don’t we give Santa Claus, a portly, blithesome, white-bearded imaginary character – sometimes with spectacles – clothed with scarlet coat, too much credit?

Some of us tell our children that they should behave themselves if they want Santa to reward them with gifts on Christmas. While this motivates them to be more cautious and responsible about their actions, we lie to them. We make them believe on something that isn’t true, to a fictional man, who they thought has the capacity to know everything they did all year round to judge whether they are worthy or not. Why do we do this?

As a Catholic nation, we have been exposed to a culture copious with questionable teachings and traditions. From the true date of the birth of Jesus Christ to the manner by which we request saints to pray for our sins and transgressions, we’re deemed clueless. In a Catholic prayer titled Hail Mary, it said: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Again, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Doesn’t it mean that we ask Mary, the mother of the flesh of Jesus Christ, to pray for us? Isn’t there a disconnect between asking a dead person do something for the living? Can the saints help to alleviate our sins and intercede for us? Should we call on other names for us to be forgiven from the unrighteous acts we had committed?

Shielding kids from some truths they can’t process is one thing. But when it comes to matters of the spirit, of faith, and of God, it’s a deprivation of a valuable fact if we’re not going to teach them to directly offer their prayers and thanksgiving to the almighty Father in heaven and not to anybody else. In Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version), it says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Santa Claus with his sleigh lead by eight reindeers does not have the capacity to know what we’re doing but God does for His eyes are everywhere. In Proverbs 15:3 (NIV), it says: “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

If we’re to take God’s place for a moment, won’t we get jealous? Because instead of praising Him, the world, in vicious normalcy, replaced Him in the children’s young minds and hearts with an invented figure, a different name. Deuteronomy 5:7-9 (NIV) says: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”

Neither Paul nor Mary let another human being pray to them. The angels Gabriel and Michael also followed such principle in the Bible. How then can Santa hear our children’s prayers? Aren’t we observing centuries-old traditions for enjoyment, entertainment, and convenience even if we have no idea on their historical and factual background?

In a chaotic time rife with hypocrisy, deceit, and insincerity, there is no better currency to give to another soul, more importantly to the youth and our children, than the truth about spirituality and faith. Gone are the days of being prisoners of the past. If we, the adults, the parents, and the grown-ups are not going to start this revolution deep within us and not stop ourselves from just following the flow without raising questions, who would?

And the recognition of that truth and path is going to be so much more significant to me than what any Santa can present whether he came down from a chimney or not on a cold December morning.

‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’: Circling back, looking closer

‘But years later, can’t we see the almost similar plot and subplots reverberating in our time?’

AFTER RECEIVING a confirmation email from the cinema manager of a posh mall in the metro that they will be showing the much-awaited film adaptation of F.H. Batacan’s novel Smaller and Smaller Circles for two consecutive weeks, I rushed to check my schedule to buy a ticket on its nationwide release the next day. 

I arrived at the cinema early, and got my ticket for the 6:20 pm showing. With no smartphone to utilize the free WI-FI while waiting, I decided to have a look at the latest book titles at the bookstore adjacent to the cinema. I saw Murakamis, Ishiguros, Gladwells, Leavs, Kaurs on the shelves while I was languidly gliding along the rows and rows of books. Then, I was greeted by Smaller.

It has been over a month now since I last finished reading the book the second time. Yes, that was not our first encounter.

In my attempt to start a conversation with Pat – who would turn out to be my senior high school best friend – while we’re waiting for our next class one crisp afternoon, I asked for the theme of the intriguing book she was holding. I was then sitting on the aisle seat behind her, on the second row. While our other classmates were busy throwing crumpled papers in the air, or talking about their treasured online computer game, or reviewing our lessons for the exam the coming week, I was hooked on the book’s front cover showing a face of a strange man in black background. Published in 2002 by the University of the Philippines Press, it’s the UP Jubilee Student Edition of Batacan’s novella.

“It’s about a serial killer in the slums of Payatas” she said. “The poor victims are pre-teen boys. Do you want to have a look?” Thrilled, I responded, “Sure, thanks!”

I flipped through the pages, glimpsed at the texts written on the back cover, and started reading the book.

Pile of trash. Small, pale, unmoving hand. Mangled corpse. Genitals removed. Peeled face. Mutilated beyond recognition.

It was as if I was taken to a familiar place in cinematic details that I couldn’t move. I froze for a moment. My classmates vanished. The noise transformed into silence. The walls of the classroom have been silently destroyed by the maggots coming out of the boy’s body. And just like that, my heart and my mind were in unison.

Equipped with a two-volume dictionary at home, I intently read each sentence. The author used words I’ve never encountered before. It was a struggle. It was new to me. It was gripping.

Transfixed, I still remember how I intensely tried to hide my emotions. I wanted to cry. Again and again, I reminded myself that it’s fiction, that there’s no way it’s happening; there’s no chance.

But years later, can’t we see the almost similar plot and subplots reverberating in our time?

A pattern on the killings involving teenage boys which was allegedly done to sabotage the current administration’s war on drugs surfaced on the news. Some government officials, who because of the pressure to deliver and exhibit results to their bosses and to the public, purportedly plant evidence and falsely declare innocent, powerless individuals as the murderer, the perpetrator, the killer by conducting brutal tortures and wreak death threats. Some priests and authorities of the Catholic Church, who tell themselves that they carry the truth and that they serve as the guardians of the moral fiber of the society up to this day, ostensibly conceal their unrighteous acts, abuse minors and the weak, and improperly use their influence and power for their advantage.

With all these lurking on our plate, when are we going to wake up?

Frustrated that not so many people showed up in the opening day of the movie adaptation of Smaller, I searched for the Instagram account of award-winning director Brillante Mendoza for consolation. On that same day, he posted: “Film is an art and you cannot expect everyone to appreciate art. You just have to accept that this is the audience that you have. We cannot do anything about it.”

Literature and the arts bring us to places we’ve never been before. They show us perspectives that can shed light to some of the subtle, the hidden, and the unspoken ideas around us; that we may pause to look closer and circle back to the abhorrent fragments of our past to keep them from happening again.

We still have a long way to go but I hope that we’ll someday give time and investment to our quality locally produced films no matter how long or short or wherever the line is.

(This piece has been published on Opinion, IMHO on the 11th of December, 2017.)

The buried giant embodied in our trains

‘Another point to consider is the psychological impact of witnessing a suicide attempt or a gory accident. What if there are children on the scene? What if they become traumatized? There is also the concern that such suicide attempts or accidents would happen too often that they become considered as part of the normal… We’ve gone through a lot to be deprived of quality services from the government. We have all felt defeated at one point.’

IT WAS a blistering hot afternoon when my northbound Metro Rail Transit (MRT3) train stopped at the Santolan station longer than usual. It’s around 2:40 pm. I was on my way to work. The crowd was not that thick.

After 6 minutes, an announcement was made. I did not understand the message because of the static noise coming out of the speaker. Anxious, I closed the book I was reading. It was a holiday because of the ASEAN Summit 2017.

The train doors remained open. I looked outside to know what’s going on. Not again, I said. A few seconds later, the train’s door closed but I still wondered what had happened.


Later that day, I heard two of my colleagues talk about news on MRT3. After hearing the details, to my horror, I realized that the delay of the train operations earlier that day was not because of another glitch or a technical problem, but because of a serious accident at the MRT3 Ayala station.

Around 2:30 pm. Woman. 24. Fainted. Fell on the railway tracks. Severed right arm. Cut near her armpit.

I was shocked. I couldn’t utter a word.

At that moment, I remembered another appalling MRT3 incident that occurred in March this year. I was also on my way to work and about to get into the entrance to buy a ticket when I observed that the train was not moving. It was stuck. The entrance had been blocked. Lines of passengers were nowhere to be found. Confusion and chaos were evident.

Out of curiosity, I asked one of the passengers who was forced to get off the train earlier that afternoon, “Sir, what happened?” He responded, “A man jumped onto the rails.”

Why do such incidents keep on happening?

In a 2013 ABS-CBN report, Pinky Webb wrote: “MRT general manager Al Vitangcol said they initially planned to put up screen doors only in 3 MRT stations, namely Taft Avenue, Shaw Boulevard, and North Avenue, by the end of the year…However, because of the recent incident, they will eventually construct the platform screen doors in all 13 stations of the MRT.”

Four years later, not a single station has been installed with a protective barrier.

How many lives have to be lost for the MRT management and the government to seriously act on this? How many more limbs or arms should be injured for those in power to act on commuters’ safety?

Another point to consider is the psychological impact of witnessing a suicide attempt or a gory accident. What if there are children on the scene? What if they become traumatized? There is also the concern that such suicide attempts or accidents would happen too often that they become considered as part of the normal.

We’ve gone through a lot to be deprived of quality services from the government. We have all felt defeated at one point.

The buried giant

I understand that there’s no shortcut in getting funds for platform screen doors or other security and safety upgrades for our trains. But, isn’t it just a matter of prioritization, political will, and accountability?

It has been said that the transport system of a country is a reliable barometer of its advancement, growth, and prosperity. We should aim to be a model of efficient and safe transport systems and services like our other neighbors in Southeast Asia.

But while waiting for that time to come, I hope that we don’t forget our frustrations and challenge those in power to make a difference for the future of our country and for the prevention of suicide attempts and accidents involving our trains.

As what Kazuo Ishiguro write in The Buried Giant, which I was holding inside the train at the Santolan station: “For in this community the past was rarely discussed. I do not mean that it was taboo. I mean that it had somehow faded into a mist as dense as that which hung over the marshes. It simply did not occur to these villagers to think about the past – even the recent one.”

Let’s all recognize and courageously face our society’s buried giants one mist at a time.

(This piece has been published on, IMHO, Opinion, on the 16th of November, 2017.)